The growing trend of gamification in HR

Last updated:
January 15, 2021
December 21, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

Wouldn't it be brilliant if your team was as driven to succeed at work as they are when it comes to getting home after a long day, plugging in their games console, and addictively to work their way through as many levels as they can on Call of Duty, Fortnite, or FIFA?

Well, using a technique we know as gamification, there's a way to apply the same addictive principles that drive us to succeed in your department's tasks and goals.

One of the biggest issues in today's workforce is the lack of feeling engaged with our tasks and organizations. Are we excited about going to work? It turns out very few of us are. Our managers' question is how to turn that round to get their teams excited enough to deliver the figures they need and stimulated enough to stop dreaming about leaving for a better position.

What is gamification?

Gamification creates incentivized practices. It's not so much about making work fun but getting your employees motivated. And it's got an awful lot to do with human psychology.

The drivers that gaming works on, and it's not just with video games as we suggested above, but with all competitive games, are purpose, autonomy, mastery, and achievement.

Being the best, or even the best we can be is addictive. Think of any sport. The goal is to win—to be the best.

Getting better at what we do, honing our skills, seeing improvement from our hard work and the chemicals it produces becomes addictive. We want to play more and more, and we don't even realize how addicted to the chemicals and neurotransmitters our brains deliver as we take those big leaps forward. We crave those chemicals that make us feel so good; that's what keeps us coming back for more.

Ultimately, gamification is about winning and the rewards that come with it. Professional sports players win vast amounts of prize money, but that's not the ultimate driver, if we're honest. They want to win. They're addicted to becoming the best and the pride it delivers.

So gamification is about being the best. It's addictive. The task you've got ahead of you is how do you make your staff feel like that at work?

Elements of human psychology that drive gamification

Our first list contains the things that help create the drivers. They're all 'feelings' that you should try and include into your practices to help deliver a desire to work and achieve your goals:

  • Intrigue
  • Desire
  • Engagement
  • Problem-solving
  • Accomplishment
  • Progression
  • The feedback that boosts performance
  • Rivalry
  • Reward

The big three, though, the ones you need to focus on the most are:

  • Incentive
  • Achievement
  • Competition

Now you know the components, all you have to do is build your new systems.

What is gamification in HR?

How is gamification being used in HR? Well, just making a game for your staff to play isn't gamification. It's gaming. Gamification needs a result that's part of your daily role. It could be recruiting, training, engagement, retention, or a host of the other tasks on your daily lists.

How can you apply the gamification principles to everyday goals to get your players to engage and deliver?

A race against time?

Gamifying your employees to means putting your teams to the test—to make their jobs a competition. Forcing them to play against each other isn't always the healthiest way to do things, although sometimes it's exactly what they thrive on.

Pick a common enemy when you're trying to promote teamwork amongst your employees. So why not make the challenge time-based? Setting time limits is a great way to boost delivery and to think of new methods or practices.

Give your team a single week to raise a specific candidate pool by 20%—by any means that they can. Being invited to think outside the box is far more exciting than sticking to old rules and methods.

Doing things the way they've always been done will only garner the same results, after all, so promoting pushing boundaries should deliver the incentive and excitement you're looking for.

Don't underestimate good old leaderboards

We've discussed employee reward schemes in other articles, and one of the more popular methods wasn't so much a prize-based system but a simple leaderboard. The pride that comes with topping the team's scores was a higher driver for many employees than material reward.

It comes back to the psychology of what makes us feel good. At work, being appreciated, being recognized for our talents, and hard work is a big part of how we make ourselves happy. Don't underestimate pride as a prize and its impact on engagement.

Gamification in HR examples

How do we get our staff, our teams, and even our leaders and managers addicted to work, addicted to reaching goals, and surpassing them to prove that they're the best in the company?

Converting playing into conversions

You apply the same principles to your working roles that have your staff hooked on their favorite games, in whatever way you can.

Gamification in recruiting

One of the more popular systems crosses gaming with gamification and merges them into one.

Instead of simply applying gamification practices: competition and reward, there's an opportunity to turn recruiting into a game format for your candidates. Based on your typical application questionnaires, an app will have candidates competing against each other for the top spots—the reward is winning an interview.

It's not a million miles from letting your AI recruiting software pick through your applicants, but your candidates will get so caught up in the game, they'll forget all about the job they're aiming for.

Imagine how much that would tell them about your company culture? Who wouldn't want to work for such a forward-thinking company?

An online aptitude game replaces the candidate application form

KPMG consultants developed an aptitude test into a mobile app that looked and played as a video game. The challenges the game provided mirrored the skills applicants would need to deliver in the working role. They built a score as they progressed, while in the background, the software was measuring how they attacked each problem.

With all those in-game decisions monitored, the results were delivered within 30 seconds of players completing the game. The assessment of each showed the recruiters who the best candidates were. It took skill-testing to an exceptional level and slashed their hiring times from 10 weeks down to 6.

Gamification in training

Again, you could turn training into a literal game, or you could create training methods that work on the same principles of gamification.

Setting goals using play, as opposed to the traditional teaching/learning practice, encourages employees to find their own way to best results, indirectly teaching them all they need to know about a new process.

Pitching your employees against each other, setting a time limit, or recognizing the employee with the highest score, provides excitement inducing competition—especially if that high score comes with any form of bonus. Cash, gift cards, early finish times, or extended lunch breaks—it doesn't matter what the reward is, as long as it's something they all want.

Training team to Aisle 8, please...

Walmart uses a VR gaming system to train employees using real-life situations. Dropping staff into a virtual world delivers the same training in a more stimulating environment, one where they can train recruits and existing employees.

Using gaming principles, they lead learners down a path their brains are already developed to treat as competitive. They soak up skills, rules, and practices faster, driven by an urge to win, something far more exciting to our subconscious than traditional methods.

Gamification in engagement and retention

Creating a platform that tracks engagement activities and opportunities provides employees with the drive for involvement, especially when tied into bonuses—either physical or of recognition.

Where specific scores are connected to pay-rises, promotions, paid time off, or other sought after rewards, employee motivation and addiction is elevated.

Live leaderboards in contact centers

Noble Systems investigated the problems of engagement and attrition in contact and call centers. To boost performance, they created a platform designed to increase productivity through engagement. All users in the system competed on live leader boards, winning points that converted into prizes.

The better they performed, the more they had to gain. Noble claims customer retention grew by almost 90%, and employee productivity was up too, by just over 20%.

Social media is gamification

Social media has always been a popularity contest, whether we want to believe it or not.

Look at how it feeds into our feelings of worth; all those likes? Multiple comments on our posts? It releases a little bit of dopamine that something good will come from those interactions. Using it to pay into our personal validation is one thing, but just look at how many businesses thrive using those platforms. The ones that do the best are playing into the hands of gamification—they're motivated for continuing achievement via popularity and conversions.

If the popularity charts lead to driving traffic or sales to your business—that's a target reached. HR departments should be looking at what drives your SM managers to push boundaries and use the same methods on the same platforms to drive all the other areas they'd like to see improvement.

Turning boring tasks into contests

Every operation has its tasks that nobody wants to do. Why not deliver a points reward for every one of them, and reward high scores with timely benefits?

Completing paperwork within 1 hour of the task—10 points.

Making 10 follow-up calls in a single hour—20 points.

For every 100 points, give your employees something that will make their day brighter. Create motivation through reward. It doesn't have to be hi-tech to get results.

Apply gamification at every step, and you should see those small increases add up to big changes.


Ultimately, it doesn't matter how you do it. If you can turn your daily challenges into a contest that drives motivation, that's gamification. If you can do it with super-smart tech that offers engagement that other methods couldn't possibly match, then dive in and see what you can create.

Gamification boosts figures across the board, not only sales and profits, but also staff and client engagement, loyalty, and interaction, all building stronger relationships and delivery.

The next time you hear the words, "You don't take your job seriously, you treat the whole thing as a game!" As long as the figures add up, you know you're getting at least one thing right.

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